Natural England’s vision of a new enabling culture

Stephen Bradley


“Conservation 21: Natural England’s conservation strategy for the 21st Century” published in October 2016 is based on three key principles:

  • creating resilient landscapes and seas
  • putting people at the heart of the environment
  • growing natural capital

Natural England (NE) recognises in this document that restrictive and protective conservation has sometimes alienated the people they need to engage and that there is a need for a new approach to enhance and inspire people’s engagement with nature, in a context of reduced government funding and “post EU Referendum opportunities” .


Their emphasis is that conservation is not about “holding things back” but about restoring ecosystems, and integrating conservation with land use planning as “conveners and enablers rather than enforcers”, to make “a healthy natural environment a central part of health, wealth and prosperity…”. They aspire to position the concept of natural capital at the centre of policy-making and decision-making with the potential to incentivise investment that enhances natural capital to the benefit of communities as well as ensuring compensation for damage to natural capital.


In taking forward this strategy to 2020, NE proposes to explore opportunities for constructive change and increasing long-term resilience and better outcomes for places and communities, as well as focusing on “big opportunities” at a “landscape scale” rather than “small risks” using “regulatory levers more strategically”. In detail, they expect to “provide expertise and evidence..rather than focus on enforcement”.


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